NEW YORK – The wait might’ve been more than worth it for Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis on Thursday night at the NBA Draft. By slipping to the second round and 34th overall pick, Ulis will be reunited with best friend and former Wildcats teammate Devin Booker a year later on the Phoenix Suns.
“It felt like it had been too long since we drafted a Kentucky guard,” Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough joked to local reporters.
His roster is stacked with five former UK guards: Ulis, Booker, Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin. While Ulis will be among friends now, there was surely a twinge of disappointment about his position in the draft.
He entered with as impressive a resume as any prospect on the board, but the 5-foot-9 Ulis also came with concerns about his height and his health, thanks to a recently reported hip issue. So he waited Thursday.
A consensus first-team All-American, SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and breaker of John Wall’s assist record at Kentucky last season, Ulis fell from a fringe lottery pick last month to outside the first round.
Cats coach John Calipari, who’s now had 28 players picked in seven drafts at the school, clearly thinks Ulis deserved better.
“Every player in that league is going to want to play with Tyler Ulis, because they’ll get the ball more,” Calipari said. “He will pick up and disrupt defensively. If he’s your second-unit point guard, you got a really, really good team. They’re going to look at him and say, ‘Too small!’ I said that. I played with him and last year and the year before, he was a big reason for us to win however many – 60-some games that we won over that period of time.”
Calipari joined Ulis and his father last week shooting down rumors of the hip issue, which Basketball Insiders reported could require surgery at some point, but it seemed to be a significant concern for some teams.
“I just want him to get the opportunity, and it looks like he’ll get the opportunity. That’s all we can ask for,” James Ulis said. “He’s never been the biggest guy on the court, in any game, ever, but he’s always been the most productive.”
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